He created it, and He knows how to make things fun. It is meant to be enjoyable. “Be fruitful and multiply” means, “Have fun growing a family,” and the rest of your life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. A sourpuss Christian is an oxymoron–or should be. Pleasure is a mark of the kingdom of Christ. David wrote, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Satan is not happy, nor is anyone who associates with him. He does a great job of making people miserable–like himself.


The union of a man and a woman preaches the gospel. After Paul writes that “the two shall become one flesh,” he says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31,32). Sex is a physical experience with deep spiritual significance. That is why sex between the wrong people is spiritually damaging and why sex between a husband and wife in love with God enhances their love for God and for one another.


He offers an alternative to real sex, between one man and one women, a husband and a wife. He says that it can be done outside of marriage or between two men or two women–or with animals. Because he hates what God creates, he depersonalizes it, destroys it, turns it into porn.


Brothels are opening in a couple of cities that offer sex with robots. And it’s not cheap. But it is a cheap form of love. Talk about the depersonalizing of sex. It is no longer “consensual.” What might that do to the appetite of a man? Some say it will turn him into a beast. Look out, women!


Sex is not the ultimate–God is. It cannot give us what only God can. If we expect too much from a physical encounter without an encounter with God, we will be disappointed and disillusioned. Sex is not at the center of our relationship with God. One does not need sex to enjoy God. Paul David Tripp wrote in an article about sex, “It sells you the lie that physical pleasure is the pathway to spiritual peace. Sex is the work of the Creator’s hands but tends to promise you what only the Creator can deliver. It is beautiful in itself but has become distorted and dangerous by means of the fall” (Crossways).  Sex doesn’t solve problems–it reveals them.


He’s behind it, He’s in it, He is for it. “And the word became flesh,” shows the extent of God’s love in redeeming and restoring the race. When humanity was trying to get spiritual, God got physical. Instead of our trying to reach up to God, He reached down to us in a tangible, observable, physical way. Astounding. Then He gets physical through the love shown between a husband and wife. As we grow in Him, we grow in our love for one another, which enhances the joy of sex. No wonder Satan hates sex. And no wonder growing, healthy Christians love it!


And a war worth winning. Some guys have been at it for years and are saying, “I doubt it.” I connect with men who have learned as I have that walking in the light liberates. My first experience of this came when I was traveling through Europe after two years of seminary. I connected with an Operation Mobilization Team. The director asked if I wanted to walk in the light with him. Good idea. I just didn’t know what he meant. He said that he gets tempted to take a second look or a third, to focus on body parts, to think about it as he crashes at night. He said, “That’s not what I want,” and I’ll let you know on a daily basis how I am doing. Sounded like a decent idea. I agreed to do the same, because I was facing similar battles. I was amazed at how well it worked–as long as I stayed in the light. When I chose to hide, I had little power to overcome.

Since then I found out why. Jesus said that some “loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). He later announced, “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Paul wrote, “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). And John proclaimed, “God is light, and in him is no darkness” (I John 1:5). We are commanded to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). Darkness is where things hide–and grow, like mold–and sin. We are told to “have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). We are fighting against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12).  For false teachers, the “gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (2 P. 2:17; Jude 13). So if we choose the darkness, we are camping in Satan’s domain. He rules there. No wonder we can’t win in the dark. Good news–God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Paul gives us a statement of identity, that we “are not in darkness” (I Thess. 5:4,5). Peter reminds us that God called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 P. 2:9).

However, Satan lies to us and says that if we come into the light, we will receive shame and rejection. John promises just the opposite: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:17). Interesting. Instead of shame–forgiveness. Instead of rejection–fellowship, koinonia, the sharing of our lives with one another.

When we learn appropriate vulnerability by walking in the light and confessing our weakness, our struggles, our defeats, we receive just what we need. Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. In other words, lies are born out of connecting with him and walking in his territory. I am delighted to say that men I have been privileged to mentor have been discovering the glorious power of light, just as Scripture promised. Maybe you are next to experience this life-changing truth!


He hates it. Sex is God’s idea. It pictures God’s passionate love for His people and Christ’s affection for His Bride. The Bible tells a love story from cover to cover. It begins with a walk and ends with a wedding. The supper celebration goes on for an eternity. Top that!

Satan is not into pleasure. Hell is a miserable, thankless place. No one ever has a good day. Satan perverts every good gift of God, including sex. God puts joy into sex—the devil extracts it. Why else would we feel fear and guilt when we follow his schemes? He doesn’t want us to enjoy sex or even food (I Tim. 4:3).

He keeps us from true pleasure. He turns intimacy into abuse, perversion, or domination. David knew that “at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore,” not with the enemy.

Sex shows up in the first two chapters of the Bible, for goodness sakes. God tells His creation to “be fruitful and multiply.” I know only one way to fulfill that command. Then Eve shows up without clothes on, God’s gift for Adam. He says, “She is bone of my bone…”, which interpreted means, “Wow!” Physical union results. God has given those made in His image “the urge to merge.”

Satan shows up one chapter later to alienate Adam from Eve and both from God. Pleasure dissolves. Enter manipulation and blame.

Some remain unconvinced. They call desserts devilishly delicious or sinfully satisfying. “Nasty” means “delightful.” Decadent ice cream is supposed to be the best, as if Satan has an edge on ecstasy. He has not experienced pleasure since his fall. Some think that those not encumbered with the restraints experience more joy. Talk to them.

The psalmist struggled: “This is what the wicked are like—always carefree…Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure” (Psalm 73:12,13). He idealized their freedom: “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man” (4).

Think about it: fences define the game. Imagine baseball without a foul line. You just destroyed the sport. When everything goes, everything goes, including pleasure. Take away boundaries (we called it “free love” in the 70’s) and we just got lied to—neither freedom nor love.

The psalmist came to a true picture of life without walls: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (16,17). They look happy, but you cannot cope if you have no hope. Try living in their troubled mind. Take away a person’s tomorrow, and you just robbed him of his today.

Say “Satan,” and you just named the most miserable person in the universe. He strategizes to remove the world from every pleasure. What a mission statement! If he convinces you to break God’s moral laws, his sinister delight keeps him pumped enough to do it again. Then he calls you a moron for being so stupid and heaps shame on you. What a destiny!

Young adult: say yes to God. Don’t let Satan turn pleasure into an irresponsible act that depersonalizes women desperate enough to sell their bodies for industry. Ask them about pleasure. Charge the devil with abuse and murder—and don’t play into his hand. Honor God with your body and live free from guilt and shame.


Sex is God’s idea, not Satan’s. Yet Satan has managed to fool many, even in the church, with the idea that God’s commands are too limiting, that God must not know how to have the most fun, that “holy” and “happy” should not be used in the same sentence. So we have Christians asking, “Why must we wait? We are engaged, as good as married. We don’t think it’s wrong, at least not that wrong. And forgiveness is available.” Others acknowledge that they wanted to abstain but regretfully crossed the line.


So why wait?

  1.  Waiting builds trust. If you can break the law of God now, you can break it after you are married. Karen and I have no doubts with each other. We started building that trust when we dated. We spoke about boundaries, because we wanted to please God in our relationship.
  2. Sex includes the possibility of a child. Are you ready to have a child? Not if you are not married. The first command given was to “be fruitful and multiply…” Sex is the consummation of marriage, not the preparation. To join together sexually and yet not be prepared to accept all the responsibilities that accompany such action puts a strain on the relationship that God did not intend it to have.
  3. Jesus affirmed the order of creation. He said, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? (Matthew 19:4,5). Physical union is the privilege of a man and a woman committed to live together for life. That is why Jesus added, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (v. 6). Until a couple has made that commitment and gone public, they are not ready to have physical relationships. Jesus said so.
  4. Intimacy is for marriage. Paul wrote that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (I Cor. 7:9). The solution the Bible offers to one whose passions are getting the best of him is not to follow his passions but to get married. Solomon writes, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”  And that time, according to his love song, is the marital relationship.
  5. You’re not married until you’re married. Many are engaged and break the engagement. They give themselves away, then wish they had not, because now they have a broken heart plus a strong bond with a person no longer with them. The soul ties created by illegitimate sexual relations can wreak havoc on marriages. Using sex to get a mate could mean getting the wrong mate. Sexual involvement blinds couples to the will of God as the physical relationship takes precedence over the spiritual and psychological. Being in God’s will trumps any station in life.
  6. Sex needs boundaries. Like a power plant, strong and dangerous, it needs protection, which marriage provides. Sex without boundaries is a fire out of control. When sex does not include the borders of marriage, it cannot be enjoyed in the same way. Shame, guilt, doubt, distrust, and resentment often come from going ahead against the will of God. Peace, joy, and fulfillment result from doing it God’s way. Sex on the sly does not bring the greatest fulfillment because it lacks the commitment that raises sexual experience to a higher level.
  7. Restraint is not repression. Jacob waited for Rachel because he loved her. Some men use the opposite reasoning: “Because I love you, I want you.” Love can wait; lust cannot. Are you planning on being married for life? Then can you wait six months to prove your love?  At the center of the cross is self-denial. Followers of Jesus know the value of crucifying fleshly passions. Our greatest need is not for pleasure; it is for holiness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” and that satisfaction lasts!
  8. God knows how to enjoy sex. Satan does not. It is not that Satan is too passionate; it is that he is not passionate enough. He separates sex from commitment, from child-bearing, from loving our partner God’s way, reducing the intensity and the joy of sexual love to irresponsible intimacy. Sex is more than a physical act; it is spiritual—every time, and including God enriches it.
  9. Look at the casualties. If you have stepped over the line, would you say it was worth it? How many people have you talked to who have said, “I wish I hadn’t waited?” You reap what you sow, and when you sow patience, you reap character. Once virginity is given up, it is never recovered. God forgives when we come in repentance, but forgiveness does not restore the original condition. Some brides and grooms wish they could give their partner the gift of virginity. A wedding day is heightened by two people joined together who have walked in purity. It can be clouded over by a pregnant bride or by a couple who have given themselves to multiple partners. Wondering if you are pregnant (and desperately hoping you are not) is a lousy way to enjoy sex. And abortions are out of the question for committed Christians. But then—so is pre-marital sex.
  10. Character counts. There are better tests for the choice of a marriage partner than physical compatibility. So practice other ways of saying, “I love you.” Pre-marital sex is not inevitable. God provides a way to overcome the temptation (I Cor. 10:13). Accountability to Christian friends can help. Engaged couples that pray together and walk in the light with mature Christian friends will look back on their engagement period with delight, not with regret. Society clearly condones pre-marital sex. It has increased among Christian singles, but that does not make it right. According to the Bible, our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please. We give them to God to do as He pleases (Romans 12:1,2; I Corinthians 6:19,20).
  11. The Bible says to “flee sexual immorality.” That doesn’t mean seeing how close you can get to the fire without being burned. Don’t put yourself in an apartment alone if you want to live by biblical convictions. Why test yourself by making out until you lose good judgment? Don’t fool yourself—and don’t test God. Acknowledge your weakness—and your hormones. Foreplay is meant to get your body moving toward a culmination. Stay away from the triggers. If you are no longer in full control, you are in a dangerous place. If my children said, “Don’t you trust us, Dad,” I would answer, “Of course I don’t. And I don’t trust myself. That’s why I have constructed moral fences.”  I am warning you because Jesus gave His listeners many warnings. So did the apostle Paul. Jesus Christ is Lord, and He is the Lord of every area of our lives, not the least of which is our relationships with the opposite sex. Learn to live under His Lordship with freedom and joy. Don’t assume that you can do what you want and simply play the forgiveness card. He does not forgive those hardened by sin and living for personal pleasure. He does forgive those broken by sin—and treats them as if they have never sinned. The grace that forgives is also the grace that empowers us to live in a way that brings more than God’s forgiveness; it brings His favor.

So what if you have already crossed the line? What if you have tried to come back and can’t? Sexuality takes in much more than the physical. A complex of issues could be involved, like abuse, poor parenting, mistaken identity, loneliness, or depression. We are not looking for people to blame, but we may need to look for the need behind the deed in order to be “more than conquerors” as the Bible promises. Without the grace of God to carry you, these eleven principles will only crush you. They are fulfilled not by grit but by learning to trust the indwelling Holy Spirit. This may require the help of a mentor or a counselor to bring you to freedom. Because the Christian life is described as a walk, a process rather than an event, you may not be able to count on one prayer ministry session or one talk with a friend to break the power of sin. Know that God has liberty for you, even if it takes time and a battle. Remember that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


Have you tried to challenge a young adult to live a holy life? Not easy in a culture where texting turns to sexting. A girl at college asked one of my sons she had just met in class, “Are you into sex?” What I grew up learning as an activity for married people had morphed into a form of cheap entertainment.

The cities where Paul planted churches lived by one rule: anything goes. And it went. Even the gods messed around. Sin is not a new invention.

The newly born-again in thoroughly pagan Thessalonica encountered the shock of their lives. With the Holy Spirit now making their bodies a temple rather than a garbage dump, they were called to a completely different style of living. The only temples they knew about housed patrons who served as prostitutes. Now their new faith called them higher, and nothing from their past, even ancient past, prepared them for this massive paradigm shift.

So they asked the most basic questions, like, “What is the will of this holy God for our lives?” The apostle, who was whisked out of town after forming a Christian community because of hostile Jews, longed to return and give them an answer face to face. He had to settle for a written communication. Here’s what he told them: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (I Thessalonians 4:3-6).

What they had grown up giving into they were now told to avoid. To be sanctified means to be set apart for special use. Their bodies were given a new purpose. Rather than indulging in whatever the body demanded, they were told to take command over the body because of the holy God who now lived in it. God actually had a plan for their bodies, and it was a different one than they had ever experienced. They needed to learn the word “no,” and practice it in relation to sexual immorality, the English phrase for the Greek word “porneia,” from which we get pornography.

God has a plan for me, and it includes a new way of living. Instead of the axiom, “Do as you please,” we now do as God’s pleases, because the Creator of the universe and of my body knows best. So I am in charge of my body, not my body in charge of me. I am not led along by the desires of my body. I don’t give in to any and every urge that my body demands, any more than I satisfy every urge for food. So the correct answer to that college girl is simply, “No, I’m not into sex, but I will be when I get married. How about you?”

One can serve in the military in a way that is called honorable. But one can also be given a dishonorable discharge. In the same way, one can live in one’s body in a dishonorable way. Paul was calling his new friends in Thessalonica to a different place. He said that his God was different from the Greek gods. He was holy. And His children would take after Him. To be godly means to be like God.

Lust and love are close in the dictionary but miles apart in life. Lust takes; love gives. Lust says, “I want what you can give me. Love says, “I want to give, not just get.” Taking advantage of other people demonstrates lust, not love, self-love, not love for others. Amnon, King David’s oldest son, wanted Tamar, so he took her against her will. Then he hated her after getting what he wanted.

Paul gives the positive, then the negative in the word to his Thessalonian friends, and his negative is a strong one. We might expect him to tell them, “The Lord will forgive men for all such sins.” Instead he writes, “The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you” (v. 6b). So Paul had addressed this with them before, but they would need plenty of reminders—and warnings. Rather than teach them how to play the forgiveness card, he lets them know that his God treats immorality much differently than Greek gods. And getting disciplined by God was more severe than a slap on the wrist.

We remember Solomon’s words, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Our Greek friends were learning wisdom in relation to their bodies. May we do the same!